Opening 18 Oct 2012
Niels works for a natural gas liquefying plant and diddles with a colleague on his off hours. His wife Maria helps out at a hospice for hopelessly ill patients. Their son Markus goes to school. Just a normal family with perhaps one departure from the norm; they are German but they live in a small town almost on the Arctic Circle in Norway. It’s always dark, especially from November to January, which wouldn’t make much difference in the plot, because Maria often drives in the dark, simply because she works late. One fateful night she hits an object on the road, stops, looks around, finds nothing, and, nursing a deep-down inkling of the truth, returns home. The next day Markus reports that his school friend Mette has died in a hit and run accident. Slowly Niels and Maria as well as all of us viewers put two and two together (not very difficult) and identify the culprit, i.e., the murderer. The film moves slowly as Niels and Maria re-establish their relationship; Markus spies on them to gain information; the parents of the dead girl (as well as most of the villagers) gradually know as much as we do; Mette’s parents visit Niels and Maria for a nice talk in their living room on their comfortable sofa, and, in the end, dispense Gnade or mercy.
The actors, Jürgen Vogel, Birgit Minichmayr, Henry Stange, and others, do their job well. The director Matthias Glasner is surely proud to have had his film show in competition at the Berlinale and then again at the Hamburg Film Festival – both in 2012. The Norwegian scenery is fabulous. However, the story somehow misses the point and, if it really reflects true behavior in Norway, is simply unbelievable. The basic idea is excellent and, therefore, I suggest that someone shorten this film Gnade to 20 minutes. Then shoot 20-minute versions in several other countries such as Indonesia, Egypt, Iran, Ecuador, the USA, China, even Germany, etc., using the same plot but adhering to the customs of the corresponding country. It would be fascinating to see each culture’s reaction: mercy, revenge, an eye for an eye, forgiveness in the name of God, imprisonment and so forth. I’m sure none of them would react as these two Norwegians do, which would then make this Norwegian version interesting. (Becky Tan)